My Name is Khan (Karan Johar, 2010)
(See lead-up squee here).
Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first.
There are moments in My Name is Khan that are among the cheesiest, most painful to watch, most clichéd, unnecessary and unsubtle moments I have seen in any Hindi film to date. I had been warned by a friend about some “terrible supporting actors” and was prepared to overlook that – but the problem was deeper. It was the plot. Something that started out great ended up…bananas.
It’s not as simple as blaming it on the “Curse of the Second Half”, though it is true that the latter part of the film’s narrative is where it seems like director Karan Johar and writer Shibani Bhatija lost faith that the story they were telling was strong enough; or perhaps worse…they lost faith that the audience would be savvy enough to glean the political message they were trying to convey, without making it overtly political, without making it BIG and EPIC and UNSUBTLE, involving stereotypical “Bollywood” plot-twists in a film, that, up to that point, had felt like a refreshing departure from the improbable.
But I don’t really want to focus on what I think was a misstep on the part of the film-makers. I think that My Name Is Khan was an ambitious film for KJo to make. It’s all too easy to stick to what is safe and comfortable; I think this was a step outside of a comfort zone. I haven’t yet seen a Western-made mainstream film tackling issues of religion and identity in the aftermath of 9/11 that has approached the thoughtfulness and sensitivity that MNIK shows in places. With ambition there are bound to be mistakes made because of being in untested territory. So I’m going to cut KJo a lot of slack, because when it comes down to it, I am thankful he made this film, flawed as it is.
More importantly, there are moments in My Name is Khan that are among the most touching, achingly beautiful moments I have seen in any Hindi film to date. And the strength of these moments, and of the film’s message overall, more than make up for the flaws. I’m going to join the chorus of MNIK supporters on the net and echo what they are saying: this is a film that MUST be seen. I knew, of course, going into the cinema, about the Shiv Sena controversy leading up to the release; after seeing the film, I am sadder than ever at the state of the world we live in, that a film with a simple, beautiful message, has had such a ‘welcome’.
There are only two types of people in the world: good people and bad people. Regardless of the bits of this movie that you and I like or dislike, what needs to be said, and known, is that the people who made My Name Is Khan….they are good people.